Ann Richards was a magnificent force of nature, a smart, strong woman from rural Texas who became the state's first female treasurer and its first female governor elected in her own right -- not a former governor's wife or widow.
If you don't know who she was, watch HBO's "All About Ann: Governor Richards of the Lone Star State" Monday, April 28. If you do know, just settle in and enjoy.
Richards shot to national prominence when she displayed her acerbic wit delivering the keynote speech at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. Afterward, many wondered why Michael Dukakis was the nominee and not the Texas firebrand.
The documentary does a fantastic job of explaining who she was and fitting her into the context of her time.
Richards grew up poor, wearing dresses made from chicken-feed sacks. She married young, reared four children and was a teacher. She had a direct gaze, a voice that told of years of smoking and drinking, and a razor-sharp wit she enjoyed using on her opponents, particularly the Bushes.
"After listening to George Bush all these years, I figured you needed to hear what a real Texas accent sounds like," she said in her star-making turn at the convention. "Poor George, he can't help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth."
In many interviews, Richards comes across as a woman who knew her mind and spoke it. She was of an age when women did not dare think about becoming politicians; they were secretaries to politicians. Yet her father always told her she could do anything.
When she was elected governor of Texas -- after a nasty primary and bruising general election - Richards made great strides.
A liberal in a conservative state, a recovering alcoholic and a politician with an excellent record - as treasurer she modernized the office; as governor, crime went down - Richards became a major player on the national stage. When she lost her re-election bid to George W. Bush, she went on the lecture circuit, drawing from her full life -- a life well told in this film.
Photo/Video credit: HBO